TestIowa ends Ottumwa run

The TestIowa site in Ottumwa was calm shortly before the end of the final day of testing at Evans Middle School June 24. Wapello County is currently seeking a brick-and-mortar site for TestIowa as COVID-19 cases increase in the county.

OTTUMWA — With the outdoor Test Iowa site for COVID-19 gone from Ottumwa, Wapello County officials are in agreement that another site needs set up.

The topic was taken up as additional business during Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting at the courthouse.

Test Iowa closed its tent site in Ottumwa June 24, but the county hopes to find another space for it, especially with the county earning designation of a “red zone” designation by the White House as COVID-19 cases have been recently on the increase.

“There is a new proposal, where the state will provide the PPE and we have to provide the volunteers,” supervisor Jerry Parker said. “We need to find a space we could use. Some of these people will have the virus, so you want to keep them away from your employees. You don’t want the public to mix in with them.”

Two possibilities for locations emerged from the meeting — the Wapello Building, and a space in the mall, either in the old J.C. Penney property or the Herberger’s space.

Parker leaned toward a maintenance office in the Wapello Building, where an employee there doesn’t arrive until late in the afternoon. He said that would give people time in the morning to get tested.

Also, he said there could be volunteers from River Hills Community Health Center who could assist county public health director Lynelle Diers with the site.

“That’s the site we’re going to suggest,” he said. “It looks like it’ll work really good.”

Emergency Management Agency Director Tim Richmond said it was important to get a “Test Iowa clinic” running before the weather turns colder. He said the clinic is Gov. Kim Reynolds’ “next version, which could allow her to use the National Guard because of her limited resources.”

Richmond said it will take “at least another couple weeks” to get a clinic running, but stressed that it was important to do it right.

“It’s tricky to run those outside sites, and we were really looking for a solution that will take us into the cold months,” he said. “The staffing has been a challenge, but I think we’ll be able to pull in nurses from clinics and River Hills, and they’ve been really supportive of us.

“I don’t want to have to move it again,” he chuckled. “If I had my druthers, we’d have it right now, but things change on a daily basis. We want to address the concerns out there and not rush into it.”

Richmond said the idea would be to test people in a two- or- three-hour morning window before they go to work.

Supervisor Brian Morgan asked about the testing supplies, and Richmond said that wasn’t a problem.

“We have plenty of supplies. In fact, I still have the leftover equipment from the drive-through tent site,” Richmond said. “And that’s part of it, having access to the storage because Lynelle’s is full to the gills right now.”

Richmond brought up the empty mall spaces, but wasn’t sure how much rent would be or what the cost for HVAC capability would be in those “great big empty spaces for just a little room.”

“We need something convenient and cost-effective,” he said. “You wouldn’t think it’d be hard to find an empty space, but when you try to find one that meets those requirements, it’s a bit tricky.”

Cleaning the site could be a challenge as well, but Richmond said he would like to use an electrostatic spray device that would clean the room top to bottom and could be done every day.

“The problem we’ll have is there isn’t a perfect place,” Parker said. “But I think it’s a real asset and imperative having a testing site here, so I think we have to work around circumstances that are a problem.”

If the mall had a site, Morgan said it would be good if there is a smaller space with an outside door so “we’re not parading people through the mall.”

“I agree with Jerry. We have to have a site. It’s imperative,” Morgan said. “Especially with us being a red county now. I think we can continue to look at other options, but I think it’s a good solution right now.”

Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

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